When Queen Victoria’s (1819–1901) husband Albert (1819–1862) died aged only 42, she was plunged into a state of mourning and withdrawal from public life that continued throughout her final four decades.
The couple – who were first cousins – had wed in 1840. It was a love match, and they were to produce four girls and five boys. The German-born Albert was not publicly popular at first, and parliament was grudging with its financial support.
After the death in 1848 of Lord Melbourne, the prime minister close to Victoria, Albert took on the role of supporter and advisor to his monarch wife. He was a tactful and intelligent man who supported many progressive causes such as the abolition of slavery and the ending of child labour. Gradually the British accepted him, and in 1857 he gained the title ‘prince consort’.
Albert died at 42 after two years of stomach pain. The official cause of death was typhoid fever, though modern opinion suggests it was more likely a chronic intestinal disease. Victoria never recovered.
This dirge by one John Edward Wall from the year of Albert’s death, A monody on the lamented death of Prince Albert, the good Consort of Queen Victoria, shows how much public opinion had changed in his favour since those early years of suspicion. Its rigorous AABCCB rhyme scheme and dramatic nature is characteristic of the popular artistic milieu.